Announcement: Week Two: 10th Anniversary Fund-Raising Drive for Behind the Black

Readers

We now begin the second week of my annual July fund-raiser for Behind the Black. The response so far been breath-taking. Thank you all for your support, from the bottom of my heart!

The July fund-raising campaign must continue however or else I will not be able to afford to continue my work here for another year.

This year’s fund-raising drive is more significant in that it is also the 10th anniversary of this website’s founding. It is hard to believe, but I have been doing this for a full decade, during which I have written more than 22,000 posts, of which more than 1,000 were essays and almost 2,600 were evening pauses.

This year’s fund drive is also more important because of the growing intolerance of free speech and dissent in American culture. Increasingly people who don’t like what they read are blatantly acting to blackball sites like mine. I have tried to insulate myself from this tyrannical effort by not depending on Google advertising or cross-posts on Facebook or Twitter. Though this prevents them from having a hold on me, it also acts to limit my exposure.

I therefore am entirely dependent on the generous support of my readers, which has been growing steadily and sometimes exponentially in the past six years (which is about when I gave up on advertising to go directly to my readers). While asking for voluntary donations is a harder way to make money, it sets me free to say and write anything I wish. No one has a hold on me. No one tells me what to write. From me you will always get my honest perspective on space, science, culture, and politics.

I therefore ask you to please consider donating to Behind the Black, either by giving a one-time contribution or a regular subscription, as outlined in the tip jar below or in the column to the right. You can also consider buying my books, all of which are available in the boxes scattered throughout the webpage. You will have my eternal gratitude, and you will help me continue my work.

This announcement will remain at the top of the webpage for the next month. Scroll down for new posts.

Share

Midnight repost: NASA, the federal budget, and common sense

The tenth anniversary retrospective of Behind the Black continues: Tonight’s midnight repost is actually two. First we have what might have been my most telling report for John Batchelor, aired in late July 2013. In that appearance I was quite blunt about my contempt for the politicians in Washington and the fake space program they had been foisting on the American public for decades. As I said,

What both those parties in Congress and in the administration are really doing is faking a goal for the purpose of justifying pork to their districts, because none of the proposals they’re making — both the asteroids or the moon — are going to happen.

Here is the audio of that appearance [mp3] for you all to download and enjoy. For reference, these are specific stories from then that I am discussing:

That rant makes for a perfect lead in to an essay I wrote in late 2011, outlining what I would do if I was in a position to reframe NASA’s budget. Everything I said then still applies. And that it does is a great tragedy, in that it means that nothing has changed, and our federal government continues to gather power while bankrupting the country.

————————–
NASA, the federal budget, and common sense

Let’s be blunt: the federal government is broke. With deficits running in the billions per day, there simply is no spare cash for any program, no matter how important or necessary. Nothing is sacrosanct. Even a proposal to cure cancer should be carefully reviewed before it gets federal funding.

Everything has got to be on the table.
» Read more

Share

Please consider donating to Behind the Black, by giving either a one-time contribution or a regular subscription, as outlined in the tip jar below. Your support will allow me to continue covering science and culture as I have for the past twenty years, independent and free from any outside influence.


 

Regular readers can support Behind The Black with a contribution via paypal:

Or with a subscription with regular donations from your Paypal or credit card account:


 

If Paypal doesn't work for you, you can support Behind The Black directly by sending your donation by check, payable to Robert Zimmerman, to
 
Behind The Black
c/o Robert Zimmerman
P.O.Box 1262
Cortaro, AZ 85652

Leaving Earth cover

In March I obtained from my former publisher the last 30 copies of the now out-of-print hardback of Leaving Earth. I quickly sold 10, and with only 20 left in stock I am raising the price. To get your own autographed copy of this rare collector's item please send a $75 check (includes $5 shipping) payable to Robert Zimmerman to
 

Behind The Black, c/o Robert Zimmerman
P.O.Box 1262
Cortaro, AZ 85652
 

I will likely raise the price again when only ten books are left, so buy them now at this price while you still can!


  Also available as an inexpensive ebook!
 

Leaving Earth: Space Stations, Rival Superpowers, and the Quest for Interplanetary Travel, is now available as an ebook everywhere for only $3.99 (before discount) at amazon, Barnes & Noble, all ebook vendors, or direct from my ebook publisher, ebookit.

 


Winner of the 2003 Eugene M. Emme Award of the American Astronautical Society.

"Leaving Earth is one of the best and certainly the most comprehensive summary of our drive into space that I have ever read. It will be invaluable to future scholars because it will tell them how the next chapter of human history opened." -- Arthur C. Clarke

Have you fallen in love with your fear of COVID-19?

The Star Spangled Banner
Fort McHenry bombarded by the British in 1812

O say does that star-spangled banner yet wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?

These two lines are probably the most familiar words to most Americans of their national anthem, The Star-Spangled Banner by Francis Scott Key. When people sing the anthem before sports events, it is these lines alone which everyone clearly knows and sings out robustly. For the rest of the song everyone kind of goes along, mouthing the words based on what they think the entire crowd is singing.

We tend however not to think about what the words mean. That last line especially describes precisely the American nation as Key and his fellow Americans in 1812 saw it, as a land of free and brave people. They understood that they were free, but they also understood that it is impossible to be a free person if you are afraid. You must be brave to be free, because freedom carries risk and danger. The rewards are gigantic, but with those rewards comes the real risk of failure and even death. To be free you need accept that risk and face it boldly.

The results of that courage are evident by what the citizens of the United States of America achieved in the two hundred years since Key wrote these words. We fought a Civil War that killed more than 600,000 people to set everyone in our nation free. We fought two wars in Europe, with the second setting that entire continent free as well because we came not as conquerors but as liberators.

And we built a nation so prosperous, for all its people, that multitudes flock desperately to come here and be part of this great experiment in human freedom.

That noble experiment is now threatened. Within our nation are many people who hate it, and are striving hard to destroy it. Along the way they eagerly long for the day that freedom itself is squelched, a day when they by edict can decide what every citizen is permitted to do, and when they by edict will be able to arrest and destroy anyone who defies them.

It is very simple. They want power. Freedom for everyone denies them that.
» Read more

Share

Sunspot update: More evidence of an upcoming weak maximum

On July 4th NOAA updated its monthly graph tracking the monthly activity of sunspots on the Sun’s visible hemisphere. Below is that updated graph, annotated by me to show the past and new solar cycle predictions.

June 2020 sunspot activity

The graph above has been modified to show the predictions of the solar science community for both the previous and upcoming solar maximums. The green curves show the community’s two original predictions from April 2007 for the previous maximum, with half the scientists predicting a very strong maximum and half predicting a weak one. The blue curve is their revised May 2009 prediction. The red curve is the new prediction, first posted by NOAA in April 2020.

June saw an uptick of activity since my last update, though that activity remains quite low. We saw two sunspots during the month, both with polarities that link them to the next maximum and thus providing evidence that we will have a maximum in about five or six years. The first of those sunspots was also one of the strongest new cycle sunspots yet seen, and lasted for almost two weeks before it rotated off the visible face of the sun.

The ratio of next cycle sunspots vs sunspots from the past maximum has also been shifting. More and more, the new sunspots belong to the next cycle and less to the last. The ramp up to the next maximum is definitely beginning, though to call it a “ramp up” at this point is a big exaggeration. Sunspot activity remains low, though the last few months have seen some activity, unlike the seven months of nothing seen during the second half of last year.

The upcoming prediction for the next maximum calls for it to be very weak. Interestingly, the activity in June surpassed that prediction. This does not mean that the prediction will be wrong, only that June was more active when compared to the smooth prediction curve. As the cycle unfolds the monthly numbers will fluctuate up and down, as they did last cycle. The question will be whether their overall numbers will match closely with the prediction. In the past cycle actual sunspot activity was consistently below all predictions. It is too soon to say how well the new prediction is doing.

Share

Genesis cover

On Christmas Eve 1968 three Americans became the first humans to visit another world. What they did to celebrate was unexpected and profound, and will be remembered throughout all human history. Genesis: the Story of Apollo 8, Robert Zimmerman's classic history of humanity's first journey to another world, tells that story, and it is now available as both an ebook and an audiobook, both with a foreword by Valerie Anders and a new introduction by Robert Zimmerman.

 
The ebook is available everywhere for $5.99 (before discount) at amazon, or direct from my ebook publisher, ebookit.

 
The audiobook is also available at all these vendors, and is also free with a 30-day trial membership to Audible.
 

"Not simply about one mission, [Genesis] is also the history of America's quest for the moon... Zimmerman has done a masterful job of tying disparate events together into a solid account of one of America's greatest human triumphs." --San Antonio Express-News

Update on Starship test program: First tests for prototype #5

Link here. Lots of good information, including details about the growing assembly line of new Raptor engines.

Meanwhile, labeled “27”, the engine – logically assumed to be Raptor SN27 – SpaceX has just installed on Starship SN5 is also of interest. On top of Musk’s recent confirmation that SpaceX is already building Raptor SN30 (probably SN31 or SN32, now), SN27’s assignment to Starship SN5 confirms that the company has managed to complete (and test) at least one next-generation engines every other week since the first full-scale engine shipped to McGregor, Texas in February 2019.

For a brand new engine as complex as Raptor, that’s an impressive production milestone. Per Musk, the end-goal is to produce at least one Raptor per day in the near term – a necessity given that each Starship and Super Heavy booster pair will require at least 37 engines. To feasibly build a fleet of tens – let alone hundreds or thousands – of Starships and boosters, one engine per day is arguably the bare minimum required just for early orbital launch attempts and initial operations.

They hope to start static fire tests, with prototype #5 by July 8th. If these go well they will likely follow soon thereafter with the first short vertical hop.

Share

It appears we will have a comet show in July!

After two other comets this spring suggested they might become bright naked eye objects and then fizzled, it now appears that Comet NEOWISE will deliver, having survived its closest approach to the Sun to now brighten towards first magnitude.

For the northern hemisphere, this is what to expect if you wish to see it:

In the morning sky, the first views of NEOWISE could come as early as July 5 or 6 in the morning sky, very low above the northeast horizon. By around July 11, the comet will reach an altitude of nearly 10 degrees — for comparison, 10 degrees is roughly equal to the width of your fist held at arm’s length. Then over the next 10 days it will gradually slide back down toward the north-northeast horizon, eventually disappearing from dawn visibility.

A far-better viewing perspective will become available in the evening sky starting around July 12, when it will appear low in the northwest sky. In the evenings to follow, the comet will rapidly climb higher in the sky.

On July 22, NEOWISE will make its closest approach to the Earth, a distance of 64 million miles (103 million km). By July 25, the comet will appear 30 degrees (“three fists”) up from the west-northwest horizon as darkness falls. And on July 30-31st, the comet will be passing just to the north of the fine star cluster of Coma Berenices or Berenice’s Hair.

Will this comet brighten more to become comparable to glorious Comet Hale-Bopp in 1997? Keep your fingers crossed.

Share

Israel launches reconnaissance satellite

In its first launch since 2016, Israel yesterday successfully used its Shavit rocket to place a military reconnaissance satellite into orbit.

This was also Israel’s ninth successful launch since it completed its first in 1988. The country has averaged about one launch every four years since, almost of of which have been military reconnaissance satellites. Generally, the pattern has been for Israeli commercial satellites to get launched by other commercial rocket companies, leaving the military launches to Shavit.

The leaders in the 2020 launch race remain unchanged:

15 China
10 SpaceX
7 Russia
3 ULA

The U.S. leads China 16 to 15 in the national rankings.

Share

Midnight repost: Obama’s legacy of hate

The tenth anniversary retrospective of Behind the Black continues: This essay was posted originally on August 19, 2019. It quite correctly predicts the looting, rioting, and violence going on now against monuments honoring past American heroes and defenders of freedom. It also correctly predicts that this looting, rioting, and violence is as yet only beginning. Be prepared for far worse, especially if you wish to defend the honor of the American dream of individual freedom, personal responsibility, and rule by law.

——————
Obama’s legacy of hate

Of all of Obama’s achievements, probably the one that is going to ring down the decades the longest and maybe do the most to destroy the United States and western civilization was his willingness to either endorse or refuse to condemn the use of slanders and lies to advance the political power of his Democratic Party and the left.

The most obvious example of this were the false accusations by top Democrats that the Tea Party protesters against Obamacare were “racist”, despite zero evidence. (I speak from personal experience, as I was involved in Tea Party groups in both the DC and Tucson areas.) Obama was in a position to tamp down this hateful and dishonest rhetoric. Instead, he allowed members of his administration to encourage it.

This political tactic has now become pervasive and dominant throughout the Democratic Party and its minions in the mainstream press. This fact became especially evident to me this past weekend, during a demonstration in Portland by a group called the Proud Boys. This group was formed in 2016 in reaction to the modern political leftist pressure forcing Americans to adhere to leftist dogma. From their own webpage:
» Read more

Share

China launches another Earth observation satellite

The new colonial movement: China yesterday successfully launched a military surveillance satellite using its Long March 2D rocket, its second launch in three days.

The leaders in the 2020 launch race:

15 China
10 SpaceX
7 Russia
3 ULA

The U.S. now leads China 16 to 15 in the national rankings.

Share

COVID-19 update: CDC says virus close to losing epidemic status

Daily U.S. COVID-19 deaths

But we’re all supposed to die! According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the number of deaths from the Wuhan virus had declined so much that the agency is on the verge of calling the epidemic over.

The CDC qualifies a disease outbreak as an “epidemic” if the number of deaths attributable to the disease exceeds a certain percentage of total deaths per week. That threshold for pneumonia, influenza and COVID-19 fluctuates slightly depending on the time of year, ranging from around 7% at the height of flu season to around 5% during less virulent months.

…The latest data show that the percentage of deaths in the country attributable to those factors had as of the last week in June reached its lowest point since the end of last year, becoming “equal to the [current] epidemic threshold of 5.9%,” the CDC said.

The numbers will change as more death certificates are processed, with I expect some health agencies in some states continuing their effort to fudge the numbers to pump up the COVID-19 totals. Regardless, the graph above (source here.) clearly shows that the epidemic is declining, with daily deaths dropping steadily since early May. (The two spikes of deaths on May 7 and June 25 are because New York and New Jersey suddenly added a whole slew of new deaths, under suspicious circumstances.)

Actual numbers daily since June 25

The graph shows a very slight increase in the past week, which could be attributed to the uptick in new cases, but if so the increase is tiny, and is close to statistically insignificant. The table to the right shows the actual numbers of deaths per day nationwide since that June 25 New Jersey spike, with the daily New York numbers thrown in as well. Not only is it hard to measure any significant uptick, the numbers in New York have been so low in the past nine days it has become absurd that the Democratically-controlled local governments there continue to insist on maintaining their draconian lock downs and mask requirements.

That the press is now focusing on the increase in cases, when the death toll has been subsiding so steadily, demonstrates their corruption and inability or refusal to do their job properly, If anything, it labels them as fear-mongers screaming fire in a theater (which is not on fire) who should be ostracized from society.

Share

Midnight repost: “We stand for freedom.”

The tenth anniversary retrospective of Behind the Black continues: This essay, portions of which was adapted from the fourth chapter of Genesis: The Story of Apollo 8, was posted originally on May 25, 2011, the fiftieth anniversary of Kennedy’s speech to Congress where he committed the nation to landing a man on the Moon by the end of the decade.

It seems fitting to repost on July 4th, Independence Day.

————————————

Kennedy's speech

“We stand for freedom.”

Fifty years ago today, John Kennedy stood before Congress and the nation and declared that the United States was going to the Moon. Amazingly, though this is by far the most remembered speech Kennedy ever gave, very few people remember why he gave the speech, and what he was actually trying to achieve by making it.

Above all, going to the Moon and exploring space was not his primary goal.
» Read more

Share

Rocket Lab launch failure

Electron 34 seconds from launch

UPDATE: Mere seconds after I uploaded the post below, Rocket Lab announced that something had gone wrong late in the launch, resulting in the loss of all seven satellites.

This failure is the company’s second since their first test launch attempt. It will certainly prevent them from their goal this year of monthly launches.

The failure also changes the launch standings below. Rocket Lab is no longer among the leaders, and the U.S. leads China 16 to 14.

The original post:
—————————
Capitalism in space: Rocket Lab today successfully completed the thirteenth launch of its Electron rocket, placing seven smallsats into orbit.

The picture above, captured from their live feed 34 seconds before launch, is most amusing because of the white sheep and black cattle grazing in the foreground.

This launch, three weeks after their previous launch, was their fastest turn-around so far. They made no attempt this time to recover the first stage, but noted that they plan to do so on their seventeenth launch, four launches from now.

The leaders in the 2020 launch race:

14 China
10 SpaceX
7 Russia
3 ULA
3 Rocket Lab

The U.S. now leads China 17 to 14 in the national rankings.

Share

Kate Smith – God Bless America

The modern hate-mongers have attempted to cancel Kate Smith, not because she did anything wrong but because her breath-taking performance of this song, done repeatedly in all venues during her lifetime, infuriates them.

What isn’t often played, but is included in this version, is the opening verse:

While the storm clouds gather far across the sea
Let us swear allegiance to a land that’s free
Let us all be grateful for a land so fair
As we raise our voices in a solemn prayer.

I will always swear allegiance to freedom. May my country always consider itself among the ranks of free nations.

This short film appears to blend the song’s first performance in 1940, when the U.S. was not yet in World War II, with footage showing Americans of all stripes, listening. The scenes are staged, using Hollywood actors (including future president Ronald Reagan), but the feelings and thoughts expressed are all sincere and real.

Kate Smith – God Bless America from Visual Turn on Vimeo.

Share

The Declaration of Independence

On this day, when we celebrate the founding of the United States — a nation that for more than two centuries has been a beacon of liberty to the entire world — it is the obligation of every American to reflect again on the opening words of the Declaration of Independence.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

This is what our Founding Fathers gave to us, the right to pursue our own personal happiness, in freedom.

What do the rioters and protesters during the past month offer? What do they propose for future generations, as they out of blind hatred tear down statues of Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, and numerous war heroes who fought for this ideal?

I think too few Americans are asking these questions. I ask them, and demand that everyone else do as well. I think just asking them will help clarify the situation for all.

Share

How Beautiful We Were

For Independence Day, I think this poem is worth reading to remind us what kind of country was bequeathed to us, and created, by the Founding Fathers two hundred and forty-four years ago.

It begins like so:

A short list. In no particular order.

We told our children that any child could grow up to be President. And then we made it come true.

We had car shows, boat shows, beauty shows and dog shows.

We ran robots on the surface of Mars by remote control.

Our women came from all over the world in all shapes and sizes and hues and scents.

We actually believed that all men are created equal and tried to make it come true.

Everybody liked our movies and loved our television shows.

We tried to educate everybody, whether they wanted it or not. Sometimes we succeeded.

We did Levis.

We held the torch high and hundreds of millions came. No matter what the cost.

We saved Europe twice and liberated it once.

We believed so deeply and so abidingly in free speech that we protected and honored and, in some cases, even elected traitors.

We let you be as freaky as you wanted to be.

Read it all, to remind yourself of the refreshing possibilities that freedom bestows. It truly allows everyone, as it says at the base of the Statue of Liberty, to breathe free.

Share

Midnight repost: The Fantasy of Extreme Weather

The tenth anniversary retrospective of Behind the Black continues: The science described in this essay, posted originally on April 11, 2013 remains even today entirely accurate. Worse, the story illustrates the exact same kind of obtuse refusal to deal with reality that has put us today in the midst of a panic over a relatively minor seasonal virus.

Unfortunately, the links to the first two articles that I reference no longer work.

—————————–
The Fantasy of Extreme Weather

This week there were three stories describing new research proving that global warming is going to cause an increase in the number and violence of extreme weather events. Each was published in one of the world’s three most important scientific journals.

Sounds gloomy, doesn’t it? Not only will extreme heatwaves, cold waves, and droughts tear apart the very fabric of society, you will not be able to drink your soda in peace on your next airplane ride!

However, one little detail, buried in one of these stories as a single sentence, literally makes hogwash out of everything else said in these three articles.
» Read more

Share

Thomas Jefferson — The meaning of the Declaration of Independence

An evening pause: Tomorrow is the Fourth of July, in which lovers of freedom and individual rights celebrate the signing of the Declaration of Independence, where by this nation committed itself forever to providing its citizens “the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”

Those words were written by Thomas Jefferson. In tonight’s evening pause, Steve Edenbo as Thomas Jefferson recites Jefferson’s thoughts on the meaning of his own words, taken from a letter he wrote just prior to the 50th anniversary of that signing in 1826, and mere weeks from his death.

May true Americans never stop honoring these words, and that man.

Share

Are health agencies changing criteria to fake higher COVID-19 infection numbers?

This link provides evidence that Texas health officials have changed how they determine the number of people infected with the Wuhan flu by loosening that definition to include anyone who has had any contact with a proven infected person, without bothering with any tests.

In the example the health department itself gives to describe how the definition changes things, the number of infected goes from only one person to seventeen. There have been other stories suggesting the same kind of manipulation in the causes of death is occurring in other states, in New York and New Jersey, as well as Colorado, to name just three.

Covid daily U.S. deaths through July 3, 2020

The press and many politicians are now using the new higher infection rates to warn that a second wave of deaths is about to descend upon us. Since the actual number of daily deaths from the Wuhan flu is actually not rising significantly, as shown in the graph to the right, and has not been rising even though the increase in cases started several weeks ago, these cries by them that the sky is falling are obviously not true. (Note that the sudden spikes of deaths on May 7 and June 25 are because New York and New Jersey suddenly added a whole slew of new deaths, under suspicious circumstances.)

I myself am glad they are widening the definition so that it includes so many more people. I say, widen that definition even more, so that it will quickly include practically everyone in the nation. At that point we shall finally realize maybe that this epidemic is not the threat these dishonest health officials, the lying leftist press, and our corrupt politicians have been making it.

Share

A hanging crater on Mars

Hanging crater
Click for full image.

Overview

Cool image time! The image to the right, cropped and reduced to post here, was taken by Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) on May 1, 2020, and shows a truly intriguing crater that they dub a “Crater Hanging on Mesa Wall.”

Located in Deuteronilus Mensae, a chaos region of mesas and cross-crossing canyons in the transition zone between the northern lowland plains and the southern cratered highlands, the crater literally overhangs the edge of this canyon’s cliff. The overview map to the right, with this location indicated by the red box, illustrates what this region’s geology is like.

The most likely explanation is that the impact occurred prior to the creation of the canyon, and when the canyon eroded, the material in and of this crater was more resistant, probably because the impact had packed it together to increase its density.

At the same time, the features inside both craters in the photo, as well as below them on the floor of the canyon, suggest the presence of buried glaciers, something not unlikely at the 45 degree north latitude where this crater sits.

So, here’s a guess at the geological history. First we had the impact, then during the eons of glacial ebb and flow on Mars due to wide swings in the planet’s obliquity (its rotational tilt), the canyon was cut, with that erosion leaving the crater sitting high above the canyon floor below it.

One more curious detail: The material in the canyon seems asymmetric, suggesting that the crater actually dips down toward the canyon, as if it as a unit has tilted to the east as the canyon was worn out below it.

Share

NPR: “Coronavirus is more common and less deadly”

From that paranoid rightwing news outlet National Public Radio (NPR): “Mounting evidence suggests the coronavirus is more common and less deadly than it first appeared.”

The tests are finding large numbers of people in the U.S. who were infected but never became seriously ill. And when these mild infections are included in coronavirus statistics, the virus appears less dangerous.

“The current best estimates for the infection fatality risk are between 0.5% and 1%,” says Caitlin Rivers, an epidemiologist at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security.

That’s in contrast with death rates of 5% or more based on calculations that included only people who got sick enough to be diagnosed with tests that detect the presence of virus in a person’s body.

It must be noted that the early data (from March 17) did not show a death rate of 5% as NPR claims, but one exactly in the range that NPR is now touting, about 1%, and even that number was thought to be a high estimate at the time.

Of course, you would not have known that if you depended on your news from NPR, or most other mainstream leftist news sources. Once they realized they could use this virus to gin up a panic that could be used politically, suddenly the Wuhan flu was the next plague, with death tolls expected in the millions.

The death rate number of 0.5% to 1% is still about five to ten times higher than the annual flu, but since there is substantial evidence that the number of COVID-19 deaths has been inflated by 25 to 50 percent, we should not be surprised if this new death rate number drops even more with the accumulation of more data.

Share

New storm outbreak on Jupiter

Clyde's Spot
Click for full image.

A new storm, dubbed Clyde’s spot after its discoverer, developed suddenly in late May on Jupiter, and has been imaged by Juno during its most recent close fly-by of the gas giant planet.

The image to the right, cropped to post here, focuses in on this spot. It is the feature in the center of the full image, with the Great Red Spot to the upper left.

The new feature was discovered by amateur astronomer Clyde Foster of Centurion, South Africa. Early on the morning of May 31, 2020, while imaging Jupiter with his telescope, Foster noticed a new spot, which appeared bright as seen through a filter sensitive to wavelengths of light where methane gas in Jupiter’s atmosphere has strong absorption. The spot was not visible in images captured just hours earlier by astronomers in Australia.

On June 2, 2020, just two days after Clyde Foster’s observations, Juno performed its 27th close flyby of Jupiter. The spacecraft can only image a relatively thin slice of Jupiter’s cloud tops during each pass. Although Juno would not be travelling directly over the outbreak, the track was close enough that the mission team determined the spacecraft would obtain a detailed view of the new feature, which has been informally dubbed “Clyde’s Spot.”

The feature is a plume of cloud material erupting above the upper cloud layers of the Jovian atmosphere. These powerful convective “outbreaks” occasionally erupt in this latitude band, known as the South Temperate Belt

The coolest thing about this is that the storm was spotted by an amateur, using a ground-based telescope, within hours of its inception.

Share

LightSail-2 extends mission

Capitalism in space: The Planetary Society’s satellite designed to test the use of a light sail in orbit, LightSail-2, has now begun an extended mission one year after launch.

It appears that they have successfully used the light sail to delay the decay of the satellite’s orbit, as well as change that orbit slightly. The extension will thus allow them to get a better and more exact understanding of the sail’s capabilities, information NASA will use in its own solar sail demonstration mission, NEA Scout, a cubesat that will use a solar sail to fly to an asteroid.

Share

United Kingdom partnership buys bankrupt OneWeb

Capitalism in space? A partnership between the UK government and an Indian company operating in the UK has purchased the bankrupt satellite company OneWeb for $1 billion.

The decision for the U.K. government to purchase OneWeb came with few details about when satellite launches will resume and exactly what the OneWeb satellites will now be used for and even who will have access to them once launched.

The overall deal is worth $1 billion USD, with the U.K. government and Bharti Enterprises Ltd. (an Indian-based company with an operational arm in the U.K.) each committing $500 million USD to the acquisition deal.

The buy-out is expected to close by the end of the year and will represent a 90% overall stake in OneWeb, with the organization’s original investors maintaining a 10% share according to reports from Bloomberg News.

The Johnson government has indicated it wishes to use the OneWeb constellation, still incomplete, as some sort of navigational tool, like GPS. The problem is that the satellites were not designed for this, but for providing internet service.

The article provides a good overview of the questions raised by this government decision. It is hard to figure how this purchase makes sense for the UK government. The impact however on one of OneWeb’s launch providers, Russia, could be very negative. OneWeb was going use a lot of Soyuz rockets to get its satellites off the ground, and had become practically the only commercial customer Russia still has. It is unclear what will happen now with that contract deal.

Share

Midnight repost: “What ever you do, don’t ‘shut up.'”

The tenth anniversary retrospective of Behind the Black continues: Tonight’s midnight repost is actually something not by me, but a video commentary by Andrew Klavan that he broadcast in 2011 and I embedded as a post in January of that year.

Sadly, his words have not become dated in the slightest. If anything, they has become more topical. And as then, I abide by his final words, “Whatever you do, don’t ‘shut up.””

Share

Courts twice today rule against COVID-19 over reach

Two positive court decisions today, both throwing out attempts by Democrats to use the panic over the Wuhan flu to nullify the U.S. legal system.

The first story outlines the court’s blunt ruling that the Democratic governor of Illinois abused his power when he extended both in restrictions and time the statewide lock downs he had imposed because of the Wuhan flu.

Illinois Circuit Court Judge Mike McHaney ruled on Thursday that Governor J.B. Pritzker of Illinois had no lawful authority to declare endless disasters past the initial thirty days. Ruling on a lawsuit filed by State House Rep. Darren Bailey (R-Ill.), Judge McHaney wrote, “The court declares that Defendant had no constitutional authority as Governor to restrict a citizen’s movement or activities and/or forcibly close business premises in EO 32.”

The ruling however included this loophole: “The judge also clarified that the lawful authority belongs to the Health Department in a time of health crisis and not the governor.” In other words, the elected official’s power is limited, but the power of unelected health department officials is not. This means that in the end, the ruling will become worthless.

In the second story, the Supreme Court rejected a lower court ruling that exempted some voters in Alabama from presenting voter identification when they voted.

We are sitting on a knife edge. The courts might rule in favor of the rule of law, but many will instead go with the wishes of the partisan Democrats, who clearly want to impose these restrictions to stamp their boot on the population, while loosening voter rules so that they can more easily submit many more fake ballots.

Share

Arianespace delays Vega launch seven more weeks

Arianespace announced yesterday that it has pushed back its first Vega rocket launch since the spring of 2019 (when the rocket failed) for seven more weeks, until August 17, 2020.

They had been trying to get the rocket off the ground this past week, but had been forced to scub several times because of high winds. They claim this long new delay is to wait until the weather improves, which really doesn’t make sense. Eric Berger at Ars Technica did some digging to find that other scheduling issues, including the odious lock down rules because of the Wuhan panic, were the really reason for the additional seven week delay. They have to recharge the batteries on the rocket, but don’t have time to do it before another launch is set to occur.

This process appears to involve customer representatives flying into French Guiana to perform this task, and there is a mandatory 14-day quarantine upon arrival in the non-European part of France that borders Brazil.

Finally, Arianespace also has a commercial satellite launch mission upcoming on its larger Ariane 5 rocket, and this VA253 flight has been scheduled for July 28. Because there is a minimum of a two-week turnaround time between launches at the spaceport in French Guiana, there was not time to reset the Vega rocket and its payloads before this mission.

With these rules and launch limitations, Arianespace is going to have increasing problems competing with the newer launch companies, all of whom are aiming, like SpaceX, to have almost instantaneous launch turn-arounds.

Share
1 2 3 738